You don’t need a green thumb to grow a bounty of fresh vegetables right in your backyard or balcony. Whether you’re a gardening novice or just want to start a vegetable garden with the least amount of time and effort, here are the top almost foolproof vegetables to grow.
Most of the gardening sites around the web agree on which vegetables are best for beginner gardeners. You can’t just dump these plants in the ground and walk away hoping they’ll flourish, but, depending on your space, these are the most likely to thrive plants for your edible garden.
Grow a Simple Salad
Good news! Some of the least fussy vegetables are ones that are perfect for an instant salad.
Lettuce and Other Salad Greens
Lettuce grows quickly, is really easy to harvest (just snip the tops off the plants or pick leaves as needed), and takes up very little space. They can even grown in containers, perhaps accompanied by flowers or tucked under taller plants. I’ve had success directly seeding them even in partly shady areas.
Possibly the most popular vegetable for any size garden, you can grow tomatoes in hanging baskets or other containers or anywhere they’ll get lots of sun and have support for their stalks. Starter plants from the garden center are the easiest to grow. Treehugger Magazine recommends the smaller varieties of tomatoes, such as cherry tomatoes:
If you’re able to provide a little bit of support (a cage or stake) you can grow indeterminate tomatoes fairly easily. However, for the smallest amount of work possible, look for “patio” type tomatoes. These are usually hybrids — some popular patio varieties include ‘Patio’ and ‘Tiny Tim.’ If you prefer heirlooms, look for a small-fruited variety like ‘Yellow Pear,’ ‘Chocolate Cherry,’ or ‘Red Currant.’ Small-fruited varieties are easy to grow because, unlike with larger tomatoes, you rarely have to worry about issues like splitting or blossom end rot. Tomatoes will even be fine with a bit of neglect — if you forget to water them, it’s not a big deal. Some gardeners swear that tomatoes taste better the less water you give them. One or two small-fruited tomato plants will keep you happily harvesting tomatoes throughout the summer until the first frost.
If you plant basil next to the tomato plants, you’ll naturally repel pests and even improve the flavor of the tomatoes—and, luckily enough, like other herbs, basil is simple to grow as well.
Cucumbers like sunlight and warm temperatures, as well as support for climbing. (Thanks to their vertical growth, cukes do well in containers.) Once you give them these and water them regularly, they grow almost like weeds. You’ll probably have enough cucumbers to donate to your neighbors. The National Gardening Association says bush (rather than vine) cucumbers are best for containers or small spaces and have good disease resistance.
More Easy Vegetables to Grow
Most root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and radishes are hardy and can be planted directly in the garden early in the spring and left until fall. The tops can be harvested too as these plants grow. Green beans and zucchini are also a cinch to grow and quite prolific producers.
Remember those projects from grade school where you grew carrot greens from their tops? Whole carrots are pretty easy to grow in the ground as well. The only thing about carrots is they might not grow very large, especially if you have rocky soil. Deep soil, well-drained soil is preferable—a raised bed is a good idea. Nevertheless, they’re simple and fun to grow (your kids might even want to help). They tolerate light shade too, although, like most plants prefer full sun.
You can slice radishes into a salad, but they’re also much more versatile than that, as appetizers, snacks, and side dishes. Even though not everyone loves them, once you see how easy they are to grow, you might add them to your garden. They take just 20 days to reach full size! Treehugger Magazine proclaims:
There is so much to love about these quick-growing, ridiculously easy to grow root vegetables. The seeds are large enough to sow easily, either in a garden bed or in a container that’s at least six inches deep. They grow in sun to partial shade. And as long as you manage to water them before the soil dries out, you’ll be rewarded with plenty of crispy, spicy radishes. Just sow more as you need them, and you can grow radishes all season long.
All sorts of green beans, from snap beans (or string beans) to shell or whole beans are ideal for home gardens. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, and snapping beans to harvest them is kind of entertaining. I’ve had better luck with the vine type compared to the self-support bush types of snap peas, but the bush types require less space. Both types grow easily from seeds. Most beans prefer full sun and well-drained soil.
Finally, there’s zucchini and other summer squashes. Serious Eats says:
Zucchini grow so prolifically that they’re the butt of many a gardener’s joke. (“The only time we lock our doors around these parts is during zucchini season.”) One or two plants should cut it for most people. The blossoms are as delicious as the squash.
Like beans and cucumbers, zucchini plants are prolific, whether they are grown in containers or directly in mounded soil. Like beans and radishes, they grow easily from seeds. They need good moisture, though, and prefer warm soil, so it’s best to sow seeds later in the warm season (a good plant for gardening procrastinators!).
With the seven vegetables above (or even just a few of them), you’ll have the freshest possible produce this growing season—without too much trouble. Hey, the more you garden, the more you grow.